Updates on redistricting lawsuits in Wisconsin, Illinois

Federal court pauses lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s redistricting until Nov. 5

On Oct. 6, a three-judge federal court panel agreed to temporarily halt proceedings in a lawsuit asking the court to set a deadline for legislators to redraw district maps and intervene by drawing its own maps. Attorney Mark Elias filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Wisconsin Democrats. The court postponed further action in the case until at least Nov. 5, but said that it would prepare for a trial in January 2022 if maps are not enacted.

In its ruling, the three-judge panel said, “Federal rights are at stake, so this court will stand by to draw the maps — should it become necessary. The court recognizes that responsibility for redistricting falls first to the states, and that this court should minimize any interference with the state’s own redistricting efforts. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not commit to drawing new legislative or congressional maps, and has not yet set a schedule to do so, or even to decide whether it will do so.”

On Sept. 24, lawyers for Republican state legislators in Wisconsin asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the federal lawsuit, arguing that redistricting challenges should be heard in state, rather than federal courts. On Sept. 22, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided 4-3 to hear a redistricting case filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty asking the court to establish a timeline for the legislature and Gov. Tony Evers (D) to agree on new maps and to draw the maps themselves should they be unable to.

Plaintiffs amend filings in lawsuits challenging enacted legislative maps in Illinois

The plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging Illinois’ newly enacted state legislative district boundaries amended their filings on Oct. 6 after Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed the new maps into law on Sept. 24. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Illinois House and Senate Republican leaders Jim Durkin and Dan McConchie argue that the redrawn district boundaries reduce the number of districts where Latino voters comprise a majority of the voting-age population.

Both lawsuits were originally filed in June and argued at the time that the original state legislative maps enacted on June 4 were invalid because they used data from the American Community Survey rather than from the 2020 census. Both lawsuits ask the court to invalidate the enacted maps. The lawsuit filed by Illinois’ House and Senate Republican leaders further argues that the state failed to meet the June 30 constitutional deadline for new district boundaries since the maps that the legislature passed were invalid. If a court rules that the Illinois legislature failed to approve a redistricting plan by the deadline, responsibility for drawing new maps would go to an eight-member backup commission where no more than four members may belong to the same political party.

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